Profile Publications No. 105 The Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu

The first prototype Ki-45 at Gifu in the spring o f 1939. The absence offuselage Hinom aru and the diogonal red stripe are noteworthy (3) Endurance: Four hours and forty minutes at 350 km/h. (217 m.p.h.) plus thirty minutes at combat rating: (4) Engines: Two 9-cylinder radials Nakajima Ha-20b (5) Armament: Two forward firing guns and one flexible rear firing machine gun. Immediately after the New Year work started in earnest at Kawasaki’s Gifu plant under the leadership of Takeo Doi, who had replaced Isamu Imashi as chief project engineer, and his deputy Tsuyoshi Nemoto. The task facing Takeo Doi was over­whelming as Kawasaki had no previous experience with high performance twin-engined aircraft with retractable landing gear. The fastest aeroplane yet built by this company, the Army Experimental Fighter Ki-28 (301 m.p.h. at 11,480 ft.), was then undergoing competitive test against the Nakajima Ki-27 and the Mitsubishi Ki-33 for the selection of a replacement of the standard J.A.A.F. fighter, the Army Type 95 Fighter (Kawasaki Ki-10, Perry), a single-engined biplane with fixed undercarriage. It is thus quite remarkable to note that the detailed engineering design was completed in October 1938, a mere ten months after receipt of the contract. In early January 1939 the first Army Experimental Ki-45 Two-seat Fighter (c/n 4501) was rolled out at the Gifu plant and, following a brief period of ground tests, underwent protracted flight trials. This aircraft was powered by a pair of experimental 9-cylinder radial Nakajima Ha-20b, a licence-built Bristol “Mercury”, rated at 820 h.p. at 3,900 m. (12,795 ft.) and 790 h.p. for take-off. These engines were enclosed under large cowlings with atypical Bristol exhaust collector ring in front of the engine and drove 3-blade variable pitch propellers without spinners. The main undercarriage retracted manually to the rear of the engine nacelles, the shock struts being covered by two panels hinged to the side of the nacelles whilst the wheels protruded slightly outside to provide some protection in the event of wheel-up landing. The pilot, sitting over the wing leading edge, and the radio-operator/gunner, sitting over the [trailing edge, were separated by the main fuel tank and were protected by sideway hingeing canopies. The forward firing armament, aimed by the pilot by means of a telescopic gunsight protruding through the windshield, consisted of two 7-7 mm. Type 89 machine guns mounted in the upper fuselage nose and one 20 mm. Ho-3 cannon, a modified Japanese Infantry 20 mm. Type 97 Anti-tank Rifle, mounted in a ventral tunnel on the starboard underside of the fuselage. The radio-operator manned a rear-firing flexible 7.7 mm. Type 89 machine gun. Soon troubles appeared as the aircraft suffered from its accelerated development and the lack of inexperience high performance flight of its manufacturer. The main undercarriage, which retracted manually by chain and sprocket, was a source of constant difficulties whilst the rear gun mounting had to be redesigned as the original mounting was virtually useless at high speed. However, the main source of worries were the engines. Not only did Nakajima fail to overcome the initial teething troubles and to produce an engine delivering the specified power but Kawasaki’s own inexperience with air-cooled engines had resulted in the adoption of excessively large nacelles generating too much drag and rendering routine maintenance extremely difficult. With the appearance of the second prototype (c/n 4502) with minor equipment changes the engine nacelles were redesigned and large propeller spinners were adopted to reduce drag. As these modifications The Ha-20b—powered first prototype the gunsight can be seen protruding from the windshield. 4
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